Gary Mesibov to step down as director of UNC’s TEACCH program

Friday, February 12, 2010 — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced today that Gary Mesibov, Ph.D. will step down as director of its program for the Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped Children, known as TEACCH. Mesibov spent 31 of his 35 years on the UNC faculty at TEACCH.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced today that Gary Mesibov, Ph.D. will step down as director of its program for the Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped Children, known as TEACCH. Mesibov spent 31 of his 35 years on the UNC faculty at TEACCH.

TEACCH was founded in the early 1970s by Eric Schopler, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill for more than 40 years and a pioneer in the humane and effective treatment of autism. TEACCH is a state-wide clinical services, training, and research program for individuals of all ages and levels of functioning with autism spectrum disorders. Mesibov followed Schopler as director and continued his vision of serving families with innovative diagnostic and supportive services that are now used throughout North Carolina and around the world.

Mesibov has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Stanford University, a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in psychology from Brandeis University. He completed a fellowship in clinical child psychology here at UNC. Mesibov is an internationally recognized leader in autism research and practice. He received the Univeristy of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor’s Award for Public Service, a Distinguished Professional Contribution Award for Public Service from the American Psychological Association, and an honorary degree from the University of Mons in Belgium. Mesibov has written extensively on autism and served as editor of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders from 1997-2007.

William L. Roper, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine said, “We deeply appreciate Dr. Mesibov’s contribution to the field of autism and to the children and other individuals who have benefited over many years from his leadership.”

With the departure of Mesibov, the direction of TEACCH will move organizationally from the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities to the dean’s office of the School of Medicine. Dean Roper has initiated a comprehensive review process to determine the most appropriate structure for the future organization of TEACCH to assure its continued dedication to individuals with autism and to the people of North Carolina.

“We anticipate that this will be a deliberate and thoughtful process that will draw significantly on the experience and views of the many people who have made TEACCH a great program including the families, supporters and friends,” Roper said.

Within the next year, the School of Medicine will initiate a search for a new director of TEACCH. Margaret B. Dardess, Ph.D., J.D., associate vice chancellor for strategic alliances in the School of Medicine, will become interim executive director of TEACCH. She will work with the directors to address the clinical and educational operations of TEACCH.

An advisory group will assist with the review process. The advisory group will include Thomas J. Bacon, DrPH, program director of AHEC (Area Health Education Centers), who will provide expertise on statewide educational and clinical services; Jamezetta R. Bedford, MA, a TEACCH parent and member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education, Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., chief science officer of Autism Speaks, whose strategic vision and clinical and scientific expertise will be valuable to this effort, Leah Devlin, DDS, MPH, Gillings Visiting Professor in Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and formerly the North Carolina State Health Director; and Joseph Piven, M.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the CIDD (Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities), who will provide scientific guidance.

Central to this effort is the continuation of outstanding service that TEACCH has long provided to individuals with autism. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is committed to building on the significant contributions of TEACCH to advance the understanding, treatment, and education of people with autism spectrum disorders and their families and communities.

Media contact: Karen McCall, (919) 966-2819, kmccall@unch.unc.edu

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